As the pandemic continues…so does the work!
Well, it’s been a hot second since I’ve updated any content on here. Yes, it’s partially due to the pandemic and loss for a sense of time. Another has been that I had rotator cuff surgery on my left shoulder in April. As my wife keeps reminding me, I’ve been a bear to deal with! (In my defense, I wasn’t really sleeping but 2-3 hours a night for the first 8 weeks). Then lastly is that Van Diesel has been sitting at a shop since pre-surgery. I believe I’m over 12 weeks at this point! So, I thought I’d get everyone caught up on the work which has been taking place!
We left off where I started dismantling the interior. There were MANY reasons for gutting it. The VERY first one was when I had it off-road (like the picture below going through a stream), water and mud were getting on the inside. I didn’t know if I had a hole in the floor, some place where the wiring came in or the likes. However, I wanted to get to the bottom of it since I didn’t want rusting to start taking place!
This gave me the chance to dig further into the wiring and all that so I understood the vehicle inside and out. There was also the conversion side of it as well; it had UK outlets (interior and exterior) which needed to be changed.
So, like before, wiring was at the top of my list as well! I mean, look at this battery and wiring! The wiring was all directly to the battery post terminals! Zero fuses or the likes. I knew that needed to be changed.
Well, if the wiring needs modernization, then I need to trace it back to see how everything else is… right? This led me to pulling out the 3 way fridge because heck, if we’re modernizing electric… we need a 12v modern fridge! That was the first component I pulled out.
Since it was a 3 way and I knew I wasn’t going back to a fridge which uses propane, that copper gas pipe “needed” to come out! That led me to pulling out the stove cabinet because I saw original fiberglass insulation. While I’m behind there, I might as well check the rust factor there!
You can sort of see where this is going, right? In the end, I gutted most of the interior. I mean, if I REALLY wanted to see what was going on, I needed to see it for ALL the good and bad. This way, I know what I have or don’t have! The two items I couldn’t get out was the base of the seat/bed due to the auxiliary fuel tank fill and the rear wardrobe cabinet. (I’ll be addressing that cabinet when I get it back!)
Now that I have EVERYTHING out, I can start addressing things that I want to do. So, for example, I’ve taken out the Propex propane heater and replaced it with a diesel heater tapped directly into the aux diesel tank right next to it. To me, that seemed more efficient! Now, I only have one source which leverages propane which is the cooktop. I’m still pondering if I should do a modification and get a induction cook top in place where the burners are currently. I already know that I’m replacing the lead batteries with lithium and eventually adding solar.
Onto the engine work! Westy Motorwerks, as stated above, has had Van Diesel for over 12 weeks. I’m torn on this issue. I called in February 2021 to make an appointment. They had a backload of work and said I could get it in during April. So, my original plan was to drive it up, get the limp mode on the TDI fixed, and bring it back prior to my surgery happening on April 21st. (Knowing full well I couldn’t drive for at least 6 weeks after surgery) Well, their workload was still behind so they pushed it back a week; colliding with my surgery week. So, I told them that I’d drop it off the week prior, they could give it the once over (like their website states), create a punch list, and then address accordingly. PERFECT (so I thought)!
I dropped Van Diesel off on April 17th with the agreement that they’d create a punch list of mechanical items once they looked it over; in addition to three items I wanted addressed (below). There wasn’t a rush because I couldn’t drive for a minimum of 6 weeks. Once I could, I’d call and arrange to pick it up.
1. Address limp mode
2. Weld shut the opening which was created to carry a 5 lbs propane tank internally in cabinet
3. Review diesel lines for cracks and potential replacement as well as plumb in diesel heater
I had my surgery and was dealing with all that so I didn’t even think about calling them up. I couldn’t pick it up anyway so why bother them? Then at 6 weeks I got the green light to drive! Woot!! I made the call and utter disappointment. It hadn’t even been looked at! I was like… WTH??!! Okay, so what’s it going to take? So, I keep pestering and the likes. I felt like I was attempting to be completely fair.
Long story short, I was told it should be ready by July 2nd. I told them it was a drop dead date because I started a local car show in North Georgia (Grind ‘N Gears , shameless plug!) and our first “official show” was July 3rd. I had another 1.9 TDI Syncro owner that was coming and we were going to compare notes! Needless to say, that date was missed. Then it was “…it’ll be ready Monday.”. Then it was Wednesday and then it was Thursday. Finally, I put my foot down and said that I was going to be up there Wednesday (July 7th) to pick it up. Enough was enough! He said he needed Wednesday morning to do the test drive / shake down. I said that they had time because of the trip. Mind you, it’s a 3+ hour drive each way from my house to Asheville, NC. We’d be there at noon.
My son has Wednesday’s off, so we drove up together. We got there at 11:45 am and all the coolant line were off. It was nowhere even CLOSE to being ready! He assured me they’d button it up; they just needed 90 minutes. I was like, fine! We’ll go to lunch and come back. Yeah, you guessed it… it was still in the same state when we got back. My son needed to get back because he was working early the next morning. So, I checked with Wes and told him the situation. He agreed that things would be done and my ride could go. So, my son left at 3 pm to make the trek back alone.
Yep… 5 pm things were looking worse! Went for a test drive with him on the highway. Upon accelerating on the on ramp onto the highway, engine goes dead. I mean DEAD! We’re in a panic since there’s hardly a shoulder. It’s turning over but not starting. Then BAM! It starts and we’re off for 2 seconds… he accelerates again and it dies AND volt meter shows 8.3v on battery. Strange??!! It was just at 12.3. I jump in back and get out the small lithium jumper set that I bought, jump it and we’re off again. Just limped it along to get off the highway. There’s DEFINITELY something wrong with it. We limped it all the way back to the shop where everyone just looked and scratched their heads…
It’s now 6 pm and I turn to Wes and state… my ride home left a few hours ago. What’s the next move? He lent me a car to drive home in until they are able to figure out what the heck was going on with it. That was July 7th… at the end of the day on Friday (July 9th), I get a call stating they don’t know what’s wrong with it and they need a wiring diagram. You see, my 1.9 TDI has an AHU block and AFN ancillaries. That’s how it was sold to me but I’m not mechanical so I didn’t understand the extent other than it was modernized with electronics. So, I guess two days were spent just poking and seeing what would happen but finally calling “uncle” and asking for wiring schematics.
I got busy contacting the previous owner, the previous, previous owner who restored the vehicle and even the previous mechanic who fixed the vehicle… all over the weekend and everyone being in the UK. By Monday morning (July 12th), I’m talking to Andy who made the wiring harness (from Syncro Sport in UK) for the Passat AFN which is installed on my 1.9 TDI AHU. He goes on to send me three PDF’s with ALL the pin outs… but it doesn’t stop there! He then diagnoses the problem and says what it probably is because he’s see this before! Holy crap! He’s like, this is the one that’s install in the ammo can, right?
So, I get this information over to Wes as soon as I can! This is a treasure trove of information which was DESPARATELY needed! It’s great that I’m learning what all is part of Van Diesel as well! I call Wes about 10 am to see if he got the email… he states, “I’m in your van right now”. In my mind, I’m thinking it’s up on the rack and they’re working on it. He was like… no, I’m driving it and it’s the farthest I’ve even gotten it to drive! I asked if he saw the emails and he did not. I told him every answer he needed was in the emails. He thought it was the N109 fuel cut off relay which they just installed a new one. I told him to look that stuff over which Andy sent. Then the killer blow… Andy, being the extremely helpful gent that he is, replies a bit later stating that it couldn’t be the N109 and explains himself further!
Status? Yea… I haven’t heard from Wes since that 10 am phone call on July 12th. I’ll only assume things are not going swimmingly though. Saga continues…